depression, boredom, and the creative mind – a guest post from JD Buffington

Today I am happy to share a guest post from a fellow author, JD Buffington is a writer of horror and science fiction. He enjoys turning nightmares into stories and wants nothing more than to entertain readers with thoughts that keep him up at night. For more from JD, find his links below!

image1depression, boredom, and the creative mind

by JD Buffington

I’m reading THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOK CLUB by Will Schwalbe and much like the book is about discussing books with Will’s mother, who has pancreatic cancer and this is how they’re bonding, I’ve been discussing themes and ideas presented in the book with my wife, who already read it. The book is full of tidbits here and there that make you go, “huh.” Whether it be an interesting take on an age-old insight or putting into better perspective things we might take for granted.

Case in point, Will learns how his mother is able to remain positive and focused on humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan while he struggles with the very concept of mindfulness. It’s in having that focus. Remaining vigilant in the present, and in your presence, also requires having something to work toward, a goal, a touchpoint in the here and now that keeps you constant. If you have something that keeps you focused, then it’s obvious that you can remain focused, even if not working on whatever project or goal your focus is on. You can apply the same skillset to other parts of your life.

In the chapter I was discussing with my wife, Will’s mother has a friend who is kidnapped in Afghanistan, and despite the worry that obviously brings about, Will’s mother is all the more determined to see a project completed that will work toward the betterment and enrichment of the Afghani people, a library. Will see’s that this determination is what has kept his mother going through cancer and “not so good days” and the pain and exhaustion those can bring. She’s not focused on her own pain, even when she’s having a bad time of it, she’s more concerned with other things, and that keeps her going.

I brought up the idea that this plays into the concept of retirement being the number one killer of old people. Not having something to do, being bored, is exhausting itself, and life-draining. I said, “…that’s why I’m glad I’m an artist, I’m always thinking, I’ll never be bored.”

Here my wife gave me the “really?” look.

Of course I can be bored. I’ve been bored! But my boredom is more born out of depression than not having anything to do. Even in my deepest pits of despair, I’m still thinking about creative projects…mostly beating myself up about not working on them, but I cannot recall a time that I didn’t have something on my mind.

Which, that raises a concerning point: when is focus worry? When is boredom depression? And how do you separate these bedfellows when they become entangled? Well, if you know, please reach out to me, because it’s something I and about half the world’s population would like to have the answer to.

The truth of the matter is, sometimes they’re intrinsically linked. Boredom can be the result of depression. Or, worry and anxiety can bear out of focus and determination. That’s not always the case, but turning your, well, focus onto what it is, right now, that is causing boredom or worry, is an exercise in mindfulness. For me, my anxiety and depression feed my creativity, albeit sometimes in unhealthy, obsessive meandering through the corridors of my own brain, but as sick as I can make myself, it’s fuel for a fire that is always burning.

I can’t imagine a quiet mind. I want one, to be able to just shut up for a minute and just enjoy some silence would be a miracle for me. Even as I write these words, I’m thinking about this short story, that novel, the laundry, are my new pets going to get along, am I gonna make ends meet this month. It’s constant. Now, I’m sure that’s true for everyone, there are all these racing thoughts and concerns that literally keep us motivated throughout the day. What I’m seeking, what I think Will is surprised by in his mother, is the ability to pick one. No matter the situation, a project or goal or task. I’m writing this out in hopes of making sense of it, and if I don’t make sense, maybe I’m giving voice to someone else’s concern. And that’s what I really want to do when I write these blog posts: conceptualize that stream of consciousness.

Yes, I get bored, but mostly, if I look bored, it’s more than likely I’m actually feeling depressed. This is just me, mind you, I’m not saying everybody who is bored is depressed, God knows there’s a bajillion kids who are so bored right now, but they’re not depressed. I, however, am always thinking, and sometimes the thoughts are quite heavy, either in content or sheer volume, amount and loudness. It’s because I have ideas. I’m not saying not everyone has ideas, I realize I’m treading potentially offensive waters here, but despite I’m worried about being worried, bored with being bored, I, personally, am never without something to think about. That’s the curse of the creative mind.

The blessing of the creative mind comes in spurts; when you can actually produce a product for others to enjoy, or that you enjoy yourself, or you’re able to take that constantly running, revving engine of a brain and apply it to daily tasks and come up with solutions to problems. Again, this is coming back to having a focus, being able to fine tune the barrage of ideas into a steady stream or controlled trickle of intention.

So, the point of this diatribe is to try and focus.

Pick one thing, once a day, and pay attention to it, see it through, put it on paper or into words or actions.

Is it mowing the lawn? Is it writing a novel? Is it making a dress? Is it just calling your mum? Be present, make whatever concerns you relate to what it is you want to focus on, that way, it’s not so much anxiety and worry, but constructive determination.

Now, if only I could take my own advice…

For more from JD you can visit his blog, CIRCUSsized, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, or find his material on Amazon. JD often writes about depression and anxiety, trying to make sense of, and normalize, these traits that threaten and feed his creativity.

Advertisements

month of me- in review (nonfiction)

IMG_7876I’m so sorry it’s been two Tuesdays without a blog post, y’all. I’m in the final countdown of baby #3 showing up, plus we just had family visiting for my husband’s graduation, and there was soooo much going on! I thought I planned ahead, but goodness I guess not.

How have y’all been? I’m backtracking a little bit today.

For the month of April I decided to take a leap and break from my norm.  Before last month, I couldn’t tell you when the last time was that I truly read a nonfiction book. Maybe around two years ago? I really couldn’t be sure.

I don’t always adore nonfiction. I really appreciate encouraging books that help relate to you when you’re in a tough spot, or books that are refreshing to read to remind you of what’s important or… you know what I mean? But beyond that, I’m not a nonfiction guru. I’ve read a biography or two, but nothing too serious. I tend to stick to fiction.

April was going to be different. I realized that my list of nonfiction reads (mostly relating to motherhood) had  become exceptionally long, but they always seemed to get pushed to the bottom of my list. Instead of continuing to put them off, I knew it was time that I read at least one– two max– that gave me some of the vibes and spiritual guidance I needed in that part of my life.

(I understand that this might not relate to many of you, so if you’re still reading– thanks for sticking with me!)

The two books I chose were: Present over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living by Shauna Niequist and Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough by Hayley Morgan and Jess Connolly.

While these two were pretty similar, they were wildly different. I loved them both so very much, but the one I related to the most right now was Present Over Perfect. I don’t get super personal on this space all the time; it’s mostly for writing and reading adventures. However, this book was pretty personal, so hang on if you wish to keep reading!

In this day and age it’s really hard to be a professional of any kind that requires marketing. (See previous posts on marketing as an author.) You need a platform, social media skills, and so much more. And the thing is, lots of that work needs to be put in before you even have a book (business, blog, site, etc.) out there. So, a lot of the time, you’re putting in A LOT of work that you’re not really being paid for. Sometimes it might not seem like work to others, and sometimes it might feel more like a burden than blessing to you.

This book really brought that to the forefront. While there’s so much more to it, it was about being present. I tend to look at my to-do list of a clean house, blog post, IG post, a few tweets, lessons, and activities– and forget to just enjoy the moments that are presented to me.

I hate to admit it, but this book made me realize just how addicted I am to social media… and a lot of time, that social media isn’t worth the moments I’m missing.

Sure, social media is a great way to connect, learn, and grow in many ways. I love connecting with other authors and book-lovers and so forth– but I don’t have to be doing it all the time, to the point that I miss other important things.

“Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life.”

The other thing it can do is give us all a complex. If you don’t have as many followers or likes or consistency, you start to wonder what’s wrong with you. Is it a waste of time? Do you need to invest more time so you have an account equivalent to that other writer? Does this mean you’re not meant to be doing what you’re doing?

“In a thousand ways, you live by the sword and you die by the sword. When you allow other people to determine your best choices; when you allow yourself to be carried along by what other people think your life should be, could be, must be; when you hand them the pen and tell them to write your story, you don’t get the pen back. Not easily, anyway.”

When it comes down to it, we all have to prioritize and really take the time to slow down and enjoy the world that is closest to us. Maybe this isn’t a popular opinion, but it really is what radiated from the pages of this book to me.

This is why I might have missed the last two blog posts, and why my trackback thursdays haven’t been present as of late–because in the end it came more important to sit with family I hadn’t seen in almost two years than to worry about making a self-made deadline.

But don’t take that the wrong way. I love you guys. I’m getting back on track with it all. Thanks for your patience.

I highly recommend this book. Take some time for you and sloooooow down!

 

when to set a project aside

Writing is an amazing thing.

It allows you to get into character’s heads, creating them from nothing but your imagination. It allows you to bring new worlds or old times alive. It allows you to get all those pent up feelings out of your system. It allows you to really do something and feel accomplished.

Sometimes, though, a project isn’t cutting it. Many of these times you can push through and find a solution to the problem. You consult with your CP and brainstorm until your brain hurts and you finally get around that “block” you’ve been struggling with.

Those are the amazing times.

There are the exceptions, though, when you can’t find your way around the writer’s block. You’ve been stuck… and stuck… and stuck on this project for what may seem (or actually has been) ages and you feel like you are getting nowhere.

But you’re afraid.

You’re afraid to put the project on the shelf, because you don’t want to quit/give up. You’re afraid of stepping away and starting something new, thinking maybe the same thing will happen with the new project: you’ll start it, and then you’ll get stuck. You don’t want to create a pattern.

So you keep trying. And writing. And pushing, And prodding.

Still, you get nowhere.

This was me, my friends. I had been working on a project for about two years.

Yes. Let me say that again.

Two YEARS.

And I was so sure it was still going somewhere. I wanted it to go somewhere because it was such a good idea. It still is. But I couldn’t get it. I couldn’t get the layout how I wanted, and my characters weren’t progressing how I thought they would. Something just wasn’t right. It was lacking.

Finally, a good friend told me there was nothing wrong with shelving the idea. After a Skype session about how I had a new idea for a book, and how I wanted to write it but was afraid to step away from this other project, she said something:

“Write your new idea. Go back to your current project when you’re ready. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

After taking her advice, I have to say I feel such a relief. So, to follow up after all that, here’s some advice from me!

Write what’s calling to you.

Writing is hard work. It’s always going to be hard work, no matter what. Anyone who says anything differently is, well, dead wrong. In order to make it slightly less painful and a little easier on you, write what’s calling you. If you had an idea and started and you’ve been trucking away but you just can’t do it (I mean literally) then give yourself a break. Whether that break is for a short story, a blog post, or shelving it to work on a new novel– know that you didn’t fail. You can always go back to it.

Don’t be afraid of a new idea.

Let me first say that there is, of course, a healthy balance. If you are a chapter or few away from finishing your novel and you decide to put it aside to start a new idea because you’re afraid to finish your novel– that’s a whole different ballgame. But if you’re writing a book and you suddenly feel more pulled to write something else, you don’t need to be afraid of that. Write your idea down. Heck, write your new idea– you don’t want to lose it! Know that you are a writer no matter how many projects you have going.

Recognize a pattern.

The only word of caution I would put in here, is be aware. If you have written half of five novels and somehow can’t find the motivation to finish any of them, it might be time to reevaluate. Consider brainstorming with a CP, or finding a writing group that will keep you accountable, or make yourself write a synopsis or outline or something that’s going to get you to the end of a project. You don’t want to have all these unfinished books and wonder where you went wrong.

 

I can’t really say when YOU should set a project aside. Every writer is different. All I can tell you is that you should trust your instincts and gut when it comes to YOUR writing. Weigh advice, suggestions, new ideas, old ideas, and so forth with a grain of salt.

Above all, write for yourself. If you’re writing for everyone else, you’ll never get anywhere.

“Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”Cyril Connolly

The Hate U Give book review

IMG_6904I had been looking forward to this book since way back when. I love being plugged in to the author/writing community on Twitter. While I’m not going to lay any sort of claim to knowing the author personally, I know someone who knows her– and that always brings books closer to my heart.

But this one, y’all… this one would have been there anyway.

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life.

I read this book in 72 hours, and it would’ve been faster if I didn’t have to adult. The characters/setting was so vivid that I was pulled into every detail of what was going on. Starr was amazing with her torn life and decisions, and I loved every character. As in, no character was lacking story or personality. They all came to life.

This book is extremely relevant to current events, and one that makes you want to sit and think and discuss so many issues. No matter where you stand or what you believe– you should read this book.